Hallux Limitus

Oct 4, 2021

A little stiffness in your big toe may not seem like that much of a concern if it happens every once in a while. Persistent stiffness, pain, and trouble walking, however, are never something to ignore. 

Hallux Limitus is the term used to describe stiffness in the main joints of the big toe. “Hallux” refers to the big toe and “limitus” to a restriction in movement.

Over time, symptoms caused by hallux limitus can worsen. The joint may develop arthritis and/or become unable to move at all (hallux rigidus). However, taking early steps to treat and manage hallux limitus can greatly reduce the risk of these complications. 

What Causes Hallux Limitus?

Several different influences can lead to the development of hallux limitus. Many of them are based on conditions that result in wear and tear on the joint. 

Some common influences include:

    • Abnormalities in foot structure: The shape of your foot can affect your gait and weight distribution in ways that place more stress on the big toe joints.
    • Improper footwear: Shoes that do not provide proper support to the feet, are too tight in the toes, or force body weight toward the front of the foot can all contribute to progressing hallux limitus.
    • Overuse: Running and other activities that place a lot of stress and repetitive high impacts on the feet can overstrain the joint
    • Trauma: Past injuries such as sprains and fractures can cause lasting damage to the joint, making hallux limitus more likely to appear over time.
  • Arthritis: It is possible to have arthritis before hallux limitus. Gout and other arthritic changes to the joint can also lead to overstrain resulting in pain and discomfort in shoes or when walking.

hallux limitus

Symptoms of Hallux Limitus

Hallux limitus may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Stiffness and difficulty in flexing the big toe
  • Pain, often felt at the top of the joint, that worsens when walking or performing other activities that involve flexing the big toe
  • A callus on the underside or side of the big toe, due to more pressure being placed on the area while moving
  • A bony bump along the top of the big toe joint (a little like a bunion)
  • Numbness or tingling

You can test the flexibility of your hallux by standing and trying to flex it upward. You should be able to bend the toe about 65 degrees. 

Since hallux limitus can have a significant effect on the ways we move and distribute weight across our bodies, it can also lead to pain developing in the knees, hips, or lower back.

Treating and Managing Hallux Limitus

Any persistent form of foot or toe discomfort is worth seeing us about – and the sooner, the better!

We will examine your current symptoms and ask you questions about your history and activities. Have you had any significant foot injuries in the past? How much time do you spend on your feet per day? What types of exercise and activities do you perform? Answers to these questions can help us determine both a correct diagnosis and the best form of treatment for your needs.

If we suspect hallux limitus, we will recommend conservative treatments to manage the condition. Our goals will be to relieve symptoms and reduce the chances of the condition worsening into hallux rigidus.

Some of the common treatments we may recommend are:

  • Accommodating and supportive footwear
  • Custom orthotics to shift excess weight and pressure away from the toe joint
  • Stretches and conditioning to maintain flexibility, strength, and range of motion
  • Pads within shoes for cushioning and support
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, or alternative treatments such as MLS laser therapy to relieve pain and inflammation

If your condition has progressed to a severe degree or conservative forms of treatment just aren’t providing the results we need, then surgery might be considered. Several surgical options are available to address symptoms of Hallux Limitus, and we will only recommend appropriate procedures based on what could correct your symptoms and fit within your lifestyle. This could include reconstructive changes to the joint, removal of any arthritic changes in the bone, or in some cases the use of an implant to restore range of motion to the toe. 

Relieve Pain and Maintain Your Motion

Whatever the cause of your foot or toe pain – whether it’s hallux limitus or something else entirely – you can count on our expert care to get to the root of the problem and address it effectively.

Schedule an appointment with us by phone or by filling out our online contact form



It's Time To Leave Foot & Ankle Pain Behind!

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